Through partnerships, service-learning courses and community-engaged research initiatives, colleges and universities can make their communities stronger and more vibrant places to live and learn. But it takes commitment, collaboration and creativity to turn community engagement initiatives into a force for social good.
For higher education institutions, community engagement needs to accomplish dual goals: enriching student learning and advancing the public good. With the right resources and approach, service-learning can make an impact today and equip the next generation of civic leaders with the tools they need to change the world.
How Can Community Engagement Advance the Public Good?
Community engagement is the practice of combining academic study with hands-on learning in collaboration with community partners. It can advance the public good in multiple ways:
- It strengthens existing community programs and funnels resources to community agencies and partners to enhance the impact and scope of their work.
- It helps students develop a deeper understanding of social justice and gives them hands-on experience working in the community, equipping them for a lifetime of civic engagement.
- It helps universities and colleges integrate more closely with their local communities, allowing for closer collaboration and a more profound sense of place for students, faculty and staff.
When designed well, community engagement can increase community access to resources, improve communication and collaboration between institutions and local organizations and foster a sense of individual responsibility for the common good for all involved.
The Pillars of Public Good
Community engagement can be a powerful force for change. But to be effective and impactful, community engagement initiatives must foster several key values. For your community engagement initiatives to genuinely work towards the public good, they must be:
- Sustainable. Sustainable programs and initiatives are built around available time and resources. They aim to build capacity rather than drain existing resources and, whether they are ongoing or a one-time engagement, leave all participants better off for having taken part.
- Reciprocal. Reciprocal programs and initiatives generate meaningful outcomes for everyone and equally weigh the voices of community partners with those inside the institution. If your program fails to give community voices agency in designing and delivering community engagement initiatives, it has been neither reciprocal nor successful–whatever the outcome.
- Measurable. To have a meaningful impact, you need to understand what you’re setting out to do. As with any project, your goals for your community engagement initiative should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. And to track your progress, you’ll need the right tools in place!
- Equitable. If your project aims to foster social justice, it goes without saying that it should be inclusive and equitable. But too often, implicit bias can get in the way of identifying specific roadblocks to equity. Does your university offer work-study funding so all students can participate in community engagement? Do you engage with a wide variety of partners in your community? Equity is a constant journey of improvement, but to ensure we’re moving in the right direction, we need systems of accountability and feedback. Make sure you listen to partners and students about their experiences–and apply what you learn.
Measuring the Success of Community Engagement
To ensure your community engagement initiative has the impact you desire, you must have systems for continuous assessment and analysis. GivePulse provides a single location to track student registrations, RSVPs, waitlists and all the data that comes with engagement, including hours, transportation, attendance, reflections and other outputs.
It also provides the tools to gather qualitative and quantitative data to assess your community impact through surveys.
Plus, since the GivePulse LTI provides an embeddable service-learning experience, staff and faculty can manage service-learning courses from their existing learning management system (LMS), eliminating duplication with existing software.
By developing and supporting community-engaged learning opportunities, your college or university can empower students to make an impact today–and continue work that advances the public good throughout their careers. Working with GivePulse can help ensure that your school’s community engagement efforts are well-coordinated, efficient and effective.
Our all-in-one service-learning management (SLM) platform allows you to recruit, engage, manage and track students, all while coordinating the logistics of community partnerships. Plus, with all your data in one place, reviewing and reporting on specific users, activities, groups and partners is easy.
Our goal is to empower everyone to make a difference. Ready to join us? Schedule a demo with GivePulse today.
GivePulse's mission is to enable everyone in the world to participate and engage in lifting their community to new heights. We do so by providing a platform to list, find, organize and measure the impact of service-learning, community engagement, philanthropy, corporate social responsibility and volunteerism.
Founded in 2012 in Austin, Texas, GivePulse works with 650,000+ groups, including colleges and universities, nonprofits, businesses, K-12/school districts and cities and municipalities. Together, we connect millions of people in an effort to create positive social change.
Start making a difference today by visiting www.givepulse.com.